Hundreds of traders at the famed Suq Mukti (dark market) in Garissa town are counting losses after a mysterious fire razed it this morning.
The cause of the fire, which locals said started at around 2am, was yet to be established as police launched investigations into the incident, the fifth in four years.
The market holds about 5,000 traders dealing in clothes, food items, electronics and wholesale goods.
Some traders blamed an electrical fault but a majority of them said it could be political.
“I have lost all my stock including cereals and groceries amounting to more than Sh1 million. It is a painful experience. I don’t know where to start again,” a teary Ms Fatuma Roble said.
She said it was surprising that fires kept breaking out in the market.
“These fires keep recurring and it seems both levels of government are not keen on finding a solution. We are always incurring losses from such incidents,” she said.
Mr Abdi Hassan, whose electronic shop was razed, blamed Governor Ali Korane’s administration, saying it had failed to respond to the outbreak on time.
“We have a county government that is very unresponsive to our needs. The market burnt within town and a single fire engine came out for rescue,” he said.
“We are paying taxes from this market to the county government and it cannot safeguard our working environment.”
Mr Hassan Sheikh Ali said the “dark market” has a history of fires every election year and called on the authorities to carry out thorough investigations.
Former Garissa Governor Nathif Jama, who visited the scene, regretted the destruction, accusing the local government of laxity in responding to emergencies.
A well-placed source told the Nation.Africa that all the fire engines in Garissa are grounded due to mechanical problems.
Feeds hundreds of residents
“It is regrettable that all the firefighting engines that were operating when I left office have since been grounded. No single engine is running in Garissa … Surely it has to get to this level?” he said.
Mr Jama said the market feeds hundreds of residents of Garissa town “but as they come out of the Covid-19 effects then the fire strikes”.
In a social media post, Mr Ahmed Abdullahi, the first Wajir County governor, sympathised with the affected traders.
“I wish to stand with and send my sympathies to our neighbouring people of Garissa following the unfortunate Suuq Mugdi fire that has razed property worth millions of shillings,” read the post.
He added: “The flames of that suuq mugdi fire is also burning in our hearts as Wajir people because of the longstanding trade between our counties”.
The burnt market in Garissa supplies Soko Mjinga in Wajir with food items and fresh vegetables.
Mr Abdullahi said many traders from Wajir had also invested in the burnt market and had opened up trade links between Garissa and Wajir people.
“Garissa Market 'Suuq Muqdi' is like our very own Soko mjinga which is the backbone of our economy. This is due to the lives and beneficiaries who are fed and schooled from the little the traders make,” he said.
“The pain of that mother, father or that youth in Garissa who has to start from scratch due to the damage is our pain too as residents of Wajir.”